One of the Department of Political Science's greatest strengths is its thriving intellectual community. We host several different colloquia focusing on a variety of topics: international relations, comparative politics, political theory, political methodology, public policy, political psychology, and gender, sexuality, power, and politics. In these workshops, graduate students and faculty from around the University can share and gain valuable feedback on works in progress. Furthermore, nationally and internationally renowned visiting scholars often present their work at these same workshops.
The Comparative Politics Colloquium is a forum for conversations about innovative approaches to the study of comparative politics. Each semester, we select several top scholars from a range of disciplines to invite to speak. We also provide a valuable forum for graduate students from within the department to present their work. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2020 Organizer: Hung Le
Every year, graduate students in the Department of Political Science at the University of Minnesota put together a schedule of academic sessions relevant to political theory, in the form of paper presentations, roundtable discussions, and reading groups. Presenters are graduate students, department faculty, faculty from other cognate departments at the university, other local college faculty (Carleton, Macalester, St. Olaf, etc.), and the occasional out-of-town guest. Past guests have included Charles Mills (CUNY Graduate Center), Linda Zerilli (UChicago), Ernesto Laclau (Northwestern), Amitai Etzioni (George Washington), Wendy Brown (UC Berkeley), Bonnie Honig (Brown), and Nicholas Xenos (UMass Amherst).
2020 Series: Crises of Democracy
The Minnesota Political Theory Colloquium (MNPTC) is pleased to announce “Crises of Democracy” as the organizing concept for our 2020 series. This theme is intended to facilitate discussion on the manifold threats facing democratic institutions in the United States and across the globe, including contemporary manifestations of colonialism and imperialism, climate change, “fake news,” xenophobia, institutional racism, gun violence, and more.
To address these and other concerns, MNPTC will host a series of panel discussions, reading groups, and guest speakers. While the overarching organizing theme for 2020 will be uniform across the calendar year, the colloquium will center different threats to democracy each semester. For the spring semester, the colloquium will foreground issues related to climate change, mass migration, and authoritarian populism.
We take further inspiration from an increased inclination within the discipline of political science to undertake and celebrate problem-driven research on topical and underexplored global issues affecting diverse constituencies. The 2020 all-woman editorial board of the American Political Science Review has recently published a statement that expresses this disciplinary commitment well:
If you would like to be added to our mailing list (to receive event updates and pre-circulated texts), please write to MNPTC@umn.edu.
We aim to maintain and improve the quality and integrity of the American Political Science Association’s flagship journal while broadening its readership, relevance, and contributor pool. To do so, we intend to publish problem-driven scholarship that is well-conceptualized, ethically-designed, and well-executed; research on topics and by scholars the discipline has been slow to engage; and work that uses a range of methods and approaches to address both timely and timeless questions about power and governance that are central to the study of politics everywhere.
In accordance with this spirit, special attention will be dedicated to contemporary epistemologies and traditions of critical scholarship in political theory, such as critical race theory, feminism, environmental political theory, and post- and anti-colonial political thought. In an effort to avoid an overly parochial approach to contemporary political crises, and to encourage the participation of members of other subfields, disciplines, and communities, we intend to collaborate with other colloquia within the Department of Political Science, as well as other academic departments and research institutes across the University of Minnesota’s campuses.
Everyone is welcome! We look forward to your participation in the colloquium.
September 25 - 1:30-3:00pm CST:
Student-faculty discussion of The Abolition of White Democracy
Joel Olson, The Abolition of White Democracy, (Minnesota, 2004): Introduction (pp. xi-xxix) & Chapter 5, "The Abolition-Democracy" (pp.125-145)
Joel Olson, The Politics of Protestant Violence
October 2 - 1:30-3:00pm CST:
Student-faculty discussion of Annihilation of Caste & Theorizing Race in the Americas
B. R. Ambedkar, Annihilation of Caste (Verso, 2016 edition): pp. TBD
Juliet Hooker, Theorizing Race in the Americas (Oxford, 2017): Introduction (pp. 2-22)
Discussion of Ambedkar facilitated by Drishadwati Bargi (CSCL)
October 23 - 1:30-3:00pm CST
Nancy Luxon, Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota
"Fanon's Psychiatric Hospital as aWaystation to Freedom"
October 30 - 2:30-4:00pm CST
"Baldwin, Exile, and the Art of Stillness"
November 13 - *2:30-4:00pm CST*
Juliet Hooker (Co-sponsored with CPC)
Our events are also posted on the Department of Political Science events list.
All sessions take place in the Lippincott Room (1314 Social Sciences), unless otherwise noted.
If you would like to be added to our mailing list (to receive event updates and pre-circulated texts), please write to MNPTC@umn.edu.
January 30: Film screening, Astra Taylor's What is Democracy? (Lippincott, 4-6 pm)
January 31: MNPTC roundtable: What is Democracy? in the classroom
Anuja Bose, Assistant Professor of Political Science, UMN
"Vigilance as a Practice of Postcolonial Freedom."
In this paper, I turn to the writings of Julius Nyerere and Thomas Sankara to reconstruct their arguments on the ways in which vigilance as a mass democratic practice is mobilized differently in a context where the national state is disempowered by external forces of imperial domination. Through this reconstruction, I make the claim that the price to be paid for postcolonial freedom is higher in an imperial context, because the dangers and risks that citizens must assume when engaging in the mass practice of vigilance are greater, and therefore the sacrifices and losses involved in obtaining and retaining liberty are higher. To set the stage for my interpretive work on Sankara and Nyerere, I turn to two bodies of scholarship: 1) contemporary ethnographic work on state and society relations in Africa and 2) neo-republican attempts to incorporate the problem international inequality into their frameworks for realizing republican values. However, there is little in this body of scholarship that attempts to explain the regression of practices of vigilance beyond the model of the “failed state.” Thus, I turn to anti-colonial writers as a vital resource for thinking through the relationship between the national and international realms, and argue that mass practices of vigilance are pitched towards multiple domains of domination that encompass the national state, foreign states, and international institutions that exert influence on national affairs.
Althea Sircar, Ph.D. Candidate at UCLA & Visiting Instructor of Political Science at Macalester College
"To Live is to Suffer: Michel Henry and the Problem of Unrepresentable Experience."
Suffering and pain are experiences typically understood as deeply personal and highly subjective. This paper (a chapter of a longer project) suggests that while these individual experiences may resist certain forms of representation in the political sphere, they nonetheless remain fundamental aspects of political subjectivity. Turning to the French phenomenologist Michel Henry's analysis of suffering as a condition of all lives, this chapter outlines how a philosophy of "suffering subjects" can deepen our understanding of not only quotidian suffering but also how we account politically and communally for extraordinary pain and violence, such as torture.
Michael Goodhart, Professor of Political Science, University of Pittsburgh
"Taking Responsibility for Climate Change"
This paper engages the "climate justice" literature, which seeks to determine a just distribution of the benefits and burdens of greenhouse gas emissions. It also challenges the idea, advanced by critics of this literature, that climate change (and other forms of structural injustice) is distinctive in ways that require abandoning familiar culpable causation models of responsibility. Rather, what's required is a political conceptualization of responsibility that highlights its contingency and malleability. The political lens adopted here highlights significant limitations in conventional thinking about responsibility, including a narrow, individualistic notion of agency, a static conception of norms, and a mechanistic understanding of causation. Drawing on examples from recent climate activism, the paper shows that activists take responsibility for climate change through discursive actions that challenge these familiar judgments about causation and culpability. The political approach developed here highlights the centrality of power in considerations of responsibility and, in doing so, suggests that narrowing climate justice to “just emissions” is a political, ethical, and epistemological mistake.
Saladin Ambar, Associate Professor of Political Science, Rutgers University-New Brunswick (co-sponsored event with AP and PED).
Juliet Hooker, Professor of Political Science, Brown University (co-sponsored event with PED and CPC).
Garrett Johnson, Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science, UMN
20 Sept. 2019: Group Reading with Anuja Bose, Nancy Luxon, Robert Nichols, and Anurag Sinha
Wendy Brown, Undoing the Demos, Chapter 1
Daniel Martinez Hosang and Joseph Lowndes, Producers, Parasites, Patriots, Introduction
Laura Grattan, Populism’s Power: Radical Grassroots Democracy in America, Introduction.
27 Sept. 2019: Yuichiro Onishi (UMN)
Title: “Detours in Postwar U.S. Marxism: Remapping Yoshimasa Yukiyama’s Itineraries”
Yoshimasa Yukiyama (1912-1974), a Japanese socialist, lived through dark days. He was immersed in the study of Marxism and politically active as a student in the 1930s, during which militarism and fascism were ascendant. As comrades were rounded up en masse by the state, he chose apostasy. During wartime, he secured a tertiary research position in the government to aid imperial state-building. Tormented and deeply conflicted, he carried with him the heavy burden of guilt and shame, only to be arrested and imprisoned for being associated with the Left cause. He re-emerged in the war’s aftermath, embracing Marxism again, this time openly, and became a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. Meanwhile, he began his career as a university professor, staying productive amid the wrath of anti-Communism in the early Cold War. But soon he faced yet another crisis in political identity; he found himself overcome by Stalinism — the Party bureaucracy and police state. Nikita Khrushchev’s revelation of Joseph Stalin’s crimes and atrocities, followed by the Soviet’s violent suppression of the Hungarian Revolt in 1956, crushed him. He renounced his membership in the Party and joined the Left.
Yukiyama’s name seldom appears in the annals of Japanese intellectual history, but crops up in postwar U.S. Marxism’s itineraries. This essay surveys his journeys through the American Left in the 1950s and 1960s and lifts up transpacific exchanges of ideas about race, class, and Marxism. I want to especially remap his engagement with the U.S. labor movement and Black radicalism, on the one hand, and Trotskyism and its lineage, on the other, as detours in thought. I find his idiosyncratic commentaries on the dynamics of race and class, as well as his lingering pro-Communist posturing far from damning. Such evidence of detours are raw materials with which to develop a stance against the tyranny of singularity in Left politics. I am interested in recasting the notion of detour as a dialectical category to present Marxism as a more capacious, supple, and at times enigmatic system of knowledge that renews and binds in often confounding and compounding ways in hopes of presenting new directions.
11 Oct. 2019: Emily Mitamura (UMN)
Title: “Dangerous Blooms: Hout Bophana and the Emplotment of Exemplary Death”
This paper interrogates the hauntings which sediment in the global circulation of “exemplary” victims of mass violence. Tracing the flow of her iconic mug shot and archival remains from the 1970s Khmer Rouge prison S-21 through print media, film, and art, I excavate the gendered and racialized labors extracted from Hout Bophana, variously termed “the Flower of Dangerous Love,” “A Cambodian Tragedy,” and “the Anne Frank of Cambodia.” Reviewing theories and modes of emplotment into which she is drawn, this paper additionally builds on the works of Mimi Thi Nguyen, Saidiya Hartman, and others to ask: how do such ghosts propagate fierce excess in relation to the nationalist, colonial, and neoliberal imaginaries that attempt to circumscribe and deploy them?
18 Oct. 2019: Gary Wilder (Graduate Center, CUNY)*
Lecture Title: “Black Radical Humanism and the Problem of Freedom”
Since the inception of Atlantic slave system, the degree of systemic violence that Western societies have perpetrated upon African and Afro-descended peoples is astonishing. Its staggering scope, intensity, and chronicity have been intrinsic to the making of the modern world. Attention is often called to how this violence has been mediated by European conceptions of humanism, humanity, and the human. Yet central to many of this community’s most important radical thinkers — inseparable from their reflections on racism, domination, and emancipation — is a commitment to what can only be called radical humanism. Scholars often treat this as a puzzle to be solved or problem to be explained. In contrast, I am interested in examining precisely the humanism of their radicalism and the radicalism of their humanism. Doing so, I believe, will illuminate a particular current or tradition of 20th century black radicalism that developed in the U.S., the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa, in both Anglophone and Francophone contexts. It may help us to better engage the issues with which they grappled – not only the color bar, racial capitalism, and colonial imperialism, but the very problem of freedom, the meaning of emancipation, and the possibility of a good life under modern conditions.
Running through this study is an argument about the parallels, intersections, and productive tensions between this form of black radical humanism and 20th century heterodox Marxism. Central to the project are close readings of W.E.B. Dubois, CLR James, Aimé Césaire, Édouard Glissant, Stuart Hall, and Paul Gilroy in relation to their insurgent or maroon predecessors and their feminist, postcolonial, or Afro-Pessimist successors.
*This public lecture will take place at 4:00 p.m. in the President’s Room in the Student Union on the east bank of the University of Minnesota’s east bank, with a reception to follow. The sponsors for this event are the Institute for Critical Inquiry into Global Change, as well as the International Center for the Study of Global Change. Although MNPTC is not co-sponsoring the event, we highly encourage our members to attend this event.
Minnesota International Relations Colloquium (MIRC) is a series of informal seminars and presentations organized by University of Minnesota graduate students of International Relations. Since 1997, MIRC has served as an on-going forum for Minnesota students and faculty, and guests from other colleges and universities, to participate in academically informed and politically engaged conversations about theoretical and practical issues pertaining to international and global politics.
For more information, view the Minnesota International Relations Colloquium website.
The goal of the Political Methodology Colloquium is to provide a venue for the discussion of methodologically informed political science research. Each semester we invite a number of top scholars and graduate students from the University of Minnesota and the outside scholarly community to present on research topics related to either (1) political and social science methodology or (2) the application of these methods to questions of interest to political science at large.
The American Politics Colloquium provides a venue for presentations of new and innovative work relating to political institutions, public policies, and mass political behavior in American politics. The Colloquium hosts several top scholars in the field throughout the year to present their latest work. In addition, the colloquium serves as a forum for Minnesota graduate students to present their on-going work and engage in substantive and methodological conversations pertaining to their work and current issues in American politics.